A Senior in More Ways Than One, 55-Year-Old Plays in College Football Game
Sports| | By Brian Delpozo
South Carolina State University celebrated their Senior Day this past weekend, though for one student the day was a bit more literal.
Four years ago, Joe Thomas was at a loss with what to do with his life. Economic recession had wiped out his construction business, so Thomas decided to enroll at SC State to be close with his son, Joe Jr., a football player at the school. Thomas had himself always dreamed of playing college football and began working with the school’s scout team.
On Saturday, the now 55-year-old Thomas was given a chance to make his dream come true and became the oldest player to ever appear in a Division 1 college football game. He was inserted into the team’s game against Savannah State for three plays, the highlight being a rush where he gained three yards of offense. His final line for the game was four carries for -1 rushing yard. Thomas spoke about what getting into the game meant to him:
“I felt like a hero. It was certainly one of the happiest days of my life. I always wanted to play college football and I finally got the chance. And I thank South Carolina State, coach [Buddy] Pough and the entire coaching staff and my teammates for the opportunity. I had been waiting 36 years. I always said, ‘Never give up on your dreams. Keep driving forward and don’t listen to other people.’ It’s a great day for me, but I must admit, I didn’t think my situation would generate so much attention and so much positive response.”
The team was so inspired by the effort that they awarded him the game ball following their 32-0 victory.
In addition to his teammates, Joe Jr., who now plays for the Green Bay Packers, loved seeing his father on the field despite some initial concerns. “I know his body might be a little fragile. I’m going to try to get the coach not to run him on one of those stretch plays. I’m going to try to get him to run straight downhill. It’s been crazy for me. I never thought you’d see a 55-year-old running back. I’m just proud of him. He made his mind up to do something and stuck to it.”